Almond Milk Smoothie

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Was it almond milk that Cleopatra used to bath in?

If it was I don’t blame her. The stuff is just wonderful. I have been making all kinds of things with it. Rice pudding, porridge, lattes and now smoothies. Our smoothie drinking has unfortunately been somewhat curtailed by the blender on my ancient food processor breaking down, but despite that I have a great recipe to share.

The mention of smoothies tend to go down with a bit of a groan in this house. It’s not that people don’t like them, but when you live in a house full of blokes, this type of drink having a girly reputation, seems to invoke much macho scoffing. I am relatively thick-skinned and choose to ignore most of this. Also the arrival of ‘vintage paper straws’ seems to sweeten the deal and happily this pastel-coloured creamy delight has been slipping down a treat.

You will need (for 2):

300ml Almond Milk, 1 Banana, about 5 Strawberries, a working blender, 4 ice cubes.

Pop everything into the blender and blend until smooth, although the odd lingering lump of ice-cube will be fine. Pour into suitable glass and enjoy with breakfast or as an after school fill you up.

Almond Milk: I buy it in Sainsburys, so unlike Coconut Water, it is readily available in the section with the longlife milk, milk powder and longlife soya milk. It has a natural very slightly sweet taste and in coffee imparts a flavour not dissimilar to using one of those syrups. To my mind this is infinitely more pleasing than the soya milk alternatives to milk. I also understand (although don’t quote me on this) that it is anti-allergenic so even better for you soya milk (to which some are allergic).

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Chilli with the Black Eyed Peas (Beans), and a few cake designs for chilly spring

Sounds exciting doesn’t it? No bands involved I’m afraid and sorry for the REALLY long gap in between posts at the moment. As I have said before we have the builders in and my new kitchen (which is under construction from the ground up) currently looks like thisIMG_0856

It’s not it’s best side and is sorely lacking in kitchen units, but any minute now they will arrive and the fun will really start.

I’ve also had plenty of work on despite the upheaval, which has been a little challenging. Nevertheless I have been producing seasonal stuff:

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and more seasonal stuff: IMG_0848

and also very specific stuff: IMG_0776

that last one being Taylor Swift’s electric acoustic guitar!

So on with the recipe, I have concentrated so far this year on cakeage, so I think it’s time for a family favourite. This comes with many variations but is, in essence, as supplied below. Instead of aubergine, we commonly use butternut squash, but the fresh, spicy flavours permeate come what may.

You will need for 4:

1 Onion, chopped, 1-2 tbsp Sunflower Oil, ½ tbsp Olive Oil with Garlic, or a clove of Garlic, crushed, a sprinkling of Crushed Chilli Flakes, 2 medium Carrots, grated, ½ Aubergine or ¹/3 Butternut Squash, roughly chopped, 1 tin Tomatoes, chopped, ½ Vegetable Stock cube, 1 300g tin of Black Eyed Peas/Beans, 1 400g tin of Kidney Beans (or Mixed Beans) in chilli sauce, 1 Red Pepper, chopped, juice of a Lime, 2 tbsp of chopped Coriander, a few drops of Worcestershire Sauce, Salt and Pepper.

It’s all very straightforward, fry the onion in the oils over a medium heat in a fairly large saucepan until soft and translucent, add the garlic if using, chilli and carrot IMG_0860and cook over a low heat for 3-4 minutes. Add the aubergine/ butternut squash and again cook for 5 minutes or so over a low heat. Add the tin of tomatoes, stock cube, some just boiled water, start off with 250ml and the Worcestershire sauce and allow the come up to simmering point and then cook with the lid on for 10 minutes or so, add the two tins of beans, the pepper, lime juice, coriander, salt and pepper and cook over a lowish heat again with the lid partly covering for a minimum of 30 minutes until everything is tender, adding more water as necessary to prevent any sticking to the bottom of the pan.

This is one of those great stew type dishes where the longer you leave it the better it will taste. If you have the time, go Greek and cook it at lunchtime to eat in the evening. Even a couple of hours between assembly and consumption will make a difference. Serve with rice, bread or tortilla!

Sour Cherry and Velvety Chocolate Loaf Cake

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Light as a feather and velvety smooth with a delicious tang in the aftertaste, this is wonderful.

I have made it my New Year’s resolution to think up more cake recipes. I have found in the past that I have shied away from actually developing my cake ideas as the precise nature of baking demands skills in construction I felt I was lacking in.

Are there rules with these things?

Once you get past a basic sponge (a foolproof method is supplied here), it does seem from recipe books that there are no hard and fast rules for success. Unpicking the secrets however seems easier with American style recipes so I have started with an offering borrowing some ideas and ingredients from across the pond.

I had an urge to buy buttermilk and a packet of sour cherries this week, now that the supermarket shelves are clear of the festive staples, without any real plans. Consequently the kids ended up with blueberry buttermilk pancakes this morning, and once the buttermilk pot was open this cake idea followed swiftly on behind. It has gone down very well. It tastes great, warm or cold and all the cherries have not sunk to the bottom!

You will need: one large loaf tin the base of which should measure around 19/20cm x 8/9cm and around 6cm deep.

Ingredients: 190g Unsalted Butter, softened, 190g Caster Sugar, 3 large Eggs, 150g Plain Flour, 50g Cocoa Powder, 1 tsp Baking Powder, pinch of Salt, 125ml Buttermilk, 75g (1 packet) Sour Cherries (dried), 1 tbsp Kahlua (optional)

  • Preheat the oven to 170°C/Fan 150°C, grease and line the loaf tin with greaseproof paper. Just screw it up into a ball and smooth it out again and then line the tin with it, nothing too precise.
  • Pop the sour cherries in a bowl and steep in the Kahlua, if using, otherwise cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy using something like a kitchen aid or hand-held mixer.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, slowly, and beating well between each addition.
  • In a separate bowl combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt and then sift gradually into the egg mixture folding carefully as you go. The mixture might seem a little dry but never fear as you are about to fold in the buttermilk followed by the sour cherries and their residual liquor if using.
  • Dollop carefully into the loaf tin and push gently into the corners then bake in the oven for about an hour. Check after 50 minutes or so and you can turn the oven up 10°C if you wish at that point. Anyway a cake tester should come out clean.
  • Leave to cool in the tin initially on a cooling rack and remove from the tin and greaseproof paper once just slightly warm.

You can eat this warm or cold, with or without cream, yoghurt, custard etc. The moist interior means it works just fine on its own. However a little piece of luxurious eating at this abstemious time.

The American influence would be the buttermilk and dried fruit in a sponge recipe, a combination I adore, but hasn’t really caught on here …… yet.

More from the Unloved Vegetables: Stir Fried Kale with Leeks and Garlic

I feel I should start with an apology; I promised pumpkin cupcakes last week for this weeks blog post, however we are moving into fruit cake baking season and my oven could do with deep clean. I have decided to try the bicarbonate of soda route which is in fact a longish process taking a few days. I am uncertain as yet whether it will truly work but am hopeful as ‘Mr Muscle’ seems to be loosing his mojo and you have to put up with that dreadful smell. So baking is currently on hold which is fine but this process has pushed any cupcakes off the agenda for now.

So I am returning to a favourite topic, the unloved vegetables.

Kale really is a bit of a nightmare: bitter, tough, always seems to come in large quantities, the cooking possibilities seem few and far between. I don’t believe there is much point in pretending is possible to convert it into a undiscovered gem of a vegetable, but in terms of bulking dishes out and using it up over throwing it out I do have a few ideas up my sleeves.

Stir Fry Kale with Leeks and Garlic

This is an accompaniment type dish, good with things like pies or roasts. Take a washed trimmed leek and slice quite thinly, heat a slug of olive oil and a similar slug of garlic oil in a medium-sized frying pan and add the leek, stir around for 5 minutes or so, until soft and then add the washed and chopped kale having removed the thick central stems. Stir around for 5 to 10 minutes until the kale has wilted and softened. It takes on a ‘wet’ appearance. Squeeze over the juice of half a lemon and season with a little salt. The leek adds a sweetness to the proceedings which frankly is much needed.

Kale New Potato and Blue Cheese Pizza topping

I am assuming that you are making pizza here  so rustle up a Margherita and then add sliced, cooked new potatoes, chopped, wilted, drained and dried kale and diced blue cheese (Dolcelatte, Stilton, Danish Blue whatever you like) and bake for 10 minutes or so. Now this really is delicious.

I will come back to making pizza a some other point.

Sweetcorn and Chilli Oil

Finally, a cute little food marriage with the corn on the cob season upon us, boil or BBQ your corn on the cob and then instead of adding butter, drizzle chilli oil instead. It’s fantastic!

Where’s the latest post?

I am trying to make Turkish Delight.

I think it is going OK, but instead of leaving it to bubble away whilst I finish the latest post I am standing anxiously over it in eager anticipation. I will post tomorrow.

See you then.

The Cutest Cakes: Classic Cakes

Lilies and Pearls

The Cutest Cakes: Cupcakes

Rosebud Vanilla Cupcake

The Cutest Cakes: Individual Iced Cakes

Miniature Fruit Cake

Details for The Cutest Cakes can be found at www.cutestcakes.co.uk or if you click the image on the side bar you will be transported there.